Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Special day at the Winthrop Stonehouse

What if they gave you a retirement reception and you couldn't make it?

Happened to me last Saturday.

But thanks to good friend Jamie Low, who captured it on video, I still could enjoy it.

I appreciated all the kind words from colleagues and students.

Thanks again, Jamie, for the video clips!

(Double click on the center of the video to fill up your entire computer screen; gives you a better view.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Human brains decaying?

If you're like me, you're "wired" for many of your waking hours.

You check your email every now and then (way too often) via your iPad, iPod, cell phone or laptop.

You Facebook or blog or Tweet (again, probably way too often.)

I say "too often" because all this time indoors or outdoors on our electronic toys takes away from time we could spend exercising, walking our dogs or enjoying fresh air and sunlight.

All the time we're online also tends to make us overly sedentary and socially isolated.

Yes, notwithstanding Facebook and email, the Internet, TV and other manifestations of "synthetic entertainment" are affecting us badly.

All this is according to Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., who wrote in the Nov. 7 & 14, 2011, edition of Newsweek that our fascination with the Internet runs counter to what we were made for--that being for most of human history we thrived in natural environments and bonded with one another (in person) as hunter-gatherers. We once lived close to nature, and that kept our brains and nervous systems in good working order, according to Weil. Such an approach to life also gave us spiritual sustenance.

Not today with all the time and energy we spend on the Internet.

As a result, even with all our resources (our computers, our electronic savvy, our money, our cushiony in-door enviroments), we're less healthy, and many of us are becoming OUTRIGHT DEPRESSED.

Weil calls it a "disease of affluence."

Here's what he writes in that Newsweek article: (That's his mugshot, by the way, with this blog post.)

"People who live in poorer countries have a lower risk of depression than those in industrialized nations. In general, countries with lifestyles that are furthest removed from modern standards have the lowest rates of depression.

"Within the U.S., the rate of depression of members of the Old Order Amish--a religious sect that shuns modernity in favor of lifestyles roughly emulating those of rural Americans a century ago--is as low as one 10th that of other Americans.

"...Putting this together, there seems to be something about modern life that creates fertile soil for depression."

Our reduced physical activity and limited real or actual human contact (as well as our disconnection from nature and sunlight and the outdoors) is something we were never wired for, according to Weil.

So what can we do today to avoid sinking into depression or social detachment?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Live in the present. Staying mindful is how we used to live. We didn't worry about the future or stress about the past because we were focused on survival (the here and now) and that's what our brains are used to.

2. Be conscious of your sleep cycle. Humans were made to sleep when it's dark and be awake when it's light. Strive to sleep in complete darkness (get some dark curtains!) and go outside (or be near windows) during the day to catch the natural light.

3. Interact socially (in person, not just online). Humans, like most animals, crave social interaction and it's crucial to make interacting with others a priority for your happiness.

4. Cultivate silence. Many of the noises in today's world disturb and startle us, which is why it's a good idea to surround our selves with silence (or at least sounds of nature) whenever we can.

5. Limit time spent with computers and other technology. (Yes, give up your iPhone, iPad or iPod--at least for a few hours every day.) Go outside and play, I used to tell my kids. (Now I should take my own words to heart!)

We needn't convert to the Amish, but we can learn quite a bit from their lifestyles!

(Here, by the way, is a video interview with Dr. Andrew Weil):

Friday, November 4, 2011

SPJ at WU--2011-2012

Events/activities for 2011-12:

Thurs., Nov. 3, 2011: Dinner and networking session with Charlotte pro chapter of SPJ. Met at Sir Edmund Halley's Tavern in Charlotte. Featured speaker: Charlotte Observer columnist Tommy Tomlinson. Guy Reel and I were there, along with WU students Hannah Schwartz, Amie Detar, Connor de Bruler, Claire Byun and Sarah Aulin.

Thurs., Feb. 2, 2012: Dinner and networking/Q&A session with Mark Kemp, editor-in-chief of Charlotte Creative Loafing Magazine. Met with Kemp and the Charlotte pro chapter of SPJ at Sir Edmund Halley's Tavern in Charlotte.

Thurs., April 19, 2012: Reception and recognition/awards (at Winthrop University) for the top four area high school essayists in the SPJ-sponsored writing competition on freedom of the press. This year our chapter received 31 essays. Students from the following schools entered our essay competition: North Myrtle Beach High School, Gaffney High School, Homeschool, Northwest Academy, Heritage High School, Lexington High School, Brookland-Cayce High School, Porter-Gaud School, Pinewood Preparatory School, Wando High School, and Westminster Catawba Christian School.

The winning essays (as determined by the student president of the Winthrop SPJ chapter and by a Winthrop mass communication professor and a journalism professor emeritus) were:

First Place, Mary Alexander Barron, Westminster Catawba Christian School
Second Place, Chien-Hsiang Huang, Lexington High School
Third Place, Amy Duvall, Gaffney High School
Honorable Mention, MaryAnn Mills, Westminster Catawba Christian School

All of the students who entered the contest, as well as their teachers, parents and other family members, were invited to the reception. The first, second, third place, and honorable mention winners read their essays to us. An audience was on hand to hear their work. Certificates and prizes (from the Winthrop Bookstore and from the Winthrop Department of Mass Communication) were presented to our top four winners.